Virgin Australia’s first-ever link between Cairns and Tokyo-Haneda takes off today, marking the end of a three-year-long saga after COVID-19 threw a spanner into the airline’s original March 2020 launch ambitions. The flights – VA77 there and VA78 back – will be flown by existing Boeing 737-700 jets for a few weeks.

But as soon as the airline’s factory-fresh Boeing 737-8 jet lands in Australia and gets the necessary regulatory approvals (slated to take a few more weeks from now), it’ll take over the reins to Tokyo.

Economy and Business Class reward seats on the 7 hr 30 min flight are also available, starting from 27,800 Velocity Points and just under AU$92 in fees and taxes, each way.

Jet off to Tokyo in Business from 59,500 Velocity Points + $92 each way.

Velocity Frequent Flyer CEO, Nick Rohrlach, said the launch of Tokyo flights was an exciting milestone for Virgin Australia.

Today marks the start of our highly anticipated services to Haneda, Tokyo, which means Australian travellers will benefit from greater value and choice when flying to Japan as we expand our international footprint.

Today is also a significant day for Velocity members who can now earn and redeem Points when travelling to over 500 destinations around the world with Virgin Australia and our partner airlines.

Nick Rohrlach, Velocity Frequent Flyer CEO, 28 June 2023

In related news, Virgin Australia and Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) are expected to enter a partnership with reciprocal frequent flyer benefits for members of either airline. There’s still no update on when the partnership will kick off, though Point Hacks understands that it’s still on the radar for 2023.

Virgin Australia Cairns-Tokyo route information

The daily flights are timed to allow morning connections from the eastern states to Cairns, before arriving in Tokyo in the evening. For those heading home, the overnight return flight lands early in the morning, which flows easily into Virgin’s domestic network.

  • VA77 departs Cairns at 1:15 pm to arrive in Tokyo-Haneda at 8:00 pm
  • VA78 departs Tokyo-Haneda at 9:45 pm to land back in Cairns at 6:15 am the following morning

The estimated flight time is 7 hr 45 min going up to Tokyo, and 7 hr 30 min heading back to Cairns. You can also use Velocity Points to lock in a reward seat at the following rates:

  • Economy reward: 27,800 Velocity Points + ~$92
  • Business reward: 59,500 Velocity Points + ~$92

As expected, Virgin Australia’s new Boeing 737-8s will offer Business Class, Economy X (extra legroom) and Economy seats. Those nestled within Business Class will enjoy all-inclusive meals and beverages, with a focus on Australian wines and beers. Complimentary pillows, blankets and amenity kits will also make a return to Virgin Australia Business Class.

Business and Economy dining

New Virgin Australia Business Class menu items include:

  • Japanese bento box with teriyaki chicken, green beans and shiitake mushrooms and accompaniments
  • Pan-fried pork dumplings
  • Asian slaw with soba noodles
  • Authentic Japanese green tea and green tea cake
  • Yoshinogawa Gensen Karakuchi sake
  • 4 Pines Japanese-style Lager

In Economy, a buy-onboard menu will be offered with Japanese and Australian fresh and packaged food items. Tea, coffee and water remain complimentary, with a bottle offered to all passengers before take-off. Travellers can also purchase amenity kits, pillows and blankets onboard.

New additions to the buy onboard menu include:

  • Japanese-style chicken curry
  • Vegetable pasta
  • Instant miso soup
  • Pokka lemon ice tea

Pleasingly, inflight Wi-Fi will be offered onboard once the Boeing 737-8 takes over the flights. It’s free for Business Class guests, as well as Velocity Platinum frequent flyer members and Virgin Australia Beyond members. All other passengers can pay $9.95 for a 30-minute pass or $24.95 for the full flight pass.

Streaming inflight entertainment will remain as the new jets won’t have in-seat screens. A range of movies and TV shows will have Japanese subtitles.

A render of Virgin Australia’s upcoming Boeing 737 MAX 8.
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Jetstar is the main competition

Jetstar already flies between Cairns and Tokyo-Narita, five times weekly. Where the low-cost carrier might already have an edge over incoming challenger Virgin Australia is – somewhat ironically – passenger space. Jetstar uses the widebody Boeing 787-8 on the route, which some travellers might prefer. However, Jetstar flies into Tokyo Narita rather than Haneda, which is further from the city.

Also read: Jetstar Boeing 787 Business Class (Cairns-Osaka) review →

Jetstar Boeing 787 Business Class
Jetstar Boeing 787 Business Class is very similar to Qantas Boeing 737 Business Class.

Virgin Australia has been trialling an updated Business Class seat on a few of its Boeing 737-800s, and Point Hacks understands that these will be the seats flying to Haneda as well.

Selecting a seat in Virgin Australia Boeing 737 Business Class can be more involved than window or aisle
Virgin Australia is trialling these new Business Class seats on selected jets. [Photo by Chris Chamberlin].

Summing up

With the deadline fast approaching for Virgin Australia to start using its coveted slot between Australia and Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, it’s no surprise the airline has decided to launch the Cairns-Tokyo Haneda route with Boeing 737-700 jets while it waits for its delayed Boeing 737-8 jets to arrive and be certified.

Operationally, it’s a great use of the airline’s incoming Boeing 737-8s – even if passengers might not yet be accustomed to spending so much time on a single-aisle jet. The Cairns-Tokyo route is about an hour longer than Sydney-Bali, which Jetstar, Virgin Australia and Qantas fly with single-aisle Airbus A320s and Boeing 737-800s.

The Boeing 737-8s are the perfect solution for Virgin Australia, as it can start operating flights to Haneda and keep the slot alive. There’s every chance that the airline could eventually get its hands on some new widebody jets and swap those onto the Haneda route, possibly from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane. It would also be great for Virgin Australia to reopen its Cairns lounge!

Featured image courtesy of Virgin Australia.

Virgin Australia launches Cairns-Tokyo Haneda flights was last modified: August 24th, 2023 by Brandon Loo